August 2010 Issue
Composite Versus Metal: No Relief in Cost to Own
If anything, long-term ownership costs for plastic aircraft are greater than traditional metal construction. Exact numbers depend as much on luck as design.
Back when fiberglass airframes were first coming to the piston-single market, one of the sales brochure bullet points was that they would be cheaper to maintain: no corrosion, patching or fill for minor dings, simpler structures with less to inspect on the annual. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re seeing in the real world. It appears that composite designs, like the Cirrus or Diamond, have traded one set of airframe issues for another and the costs have come out a wash or in favor of metal—at least looking globally. The caveat is important because we saw greater variability in ownership costs within a given design than between designs. The average cost of ownership for two similar-vintage Cirrus SR22s could vary more than comparing an SR22 and a Mooney Ovation of similar model years.
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